I originally wrote this article in 2016. Not much has changed except my two daughters, phor example, no longer permit me to say, “fly,” let alone spell it with a “ph.” I am hardly permitted to breathe as it’s incredibly embarrassing for them.
I am reposting this because of my unwavering love of philanthropy and the importance of instilling it in my children and all of our children. Philanthropy is often perceived as only monetary funding. It is so much more than that.
Worst case scenario, at least the kids who come to Sunday Funday on January 27th can be exposed to the different struggles of other kids throughout the world. This is not to diminish any child’s struggles, but to enhance their lives by opening their world to philanthropy.
One more shift that’s transpired since I wrote this post is that I have learned how to be somewhat handy and forego the need for a “Schneider.”
One week from today, on November 27th, scores of nonprofits and other fund-seekers will bombard each of us with #GivingTuesday solicitations. I love the idea of the entire world participating in philanthropy, I’ve just questioned the implementation of the annual event. For me, it typically undercuts all that’s really beautiful about philanthropy – The building of relationships, the matchmaking between donor prospect and mission and the “what’s in it for me,” and of course, long range thoughtful planning regarding organizational sustainability.
I have been pretty cranky about the implementation of #GivingTuesday, since its launch in 2012. If you’re interested, feel free to revel in a few curmudgeonly #GivingTuesday articles:
Still, each year since the launch of #GivingTuesday, I have had to either create campaigns or at the very least, raise funds for them.
There’s no question that my most “favorite” #GivingTuesday concept is something that looks very different from the barrage of campaigns hitting us left and right. I like a campaign where an entire staff gives of themselves out in the community, as a literal, external-facing depiction of philanthropic behavior. I also like to focus on giving education about a nonprofit’s mission and vision and even adding a day of volunteerism where it’s tracked via social media streams throughout the day.
No matter how #GivingTuesday is marketed or pitched, I always have to find the love in a campaign or I won’t be able to succeed.
This year, I moaned and groaned quietly, about collaborating on mapping a #GivingTuesday campaign for ORT America. Then, I made an intentional decision to take a fresh approach. I started thinking about all of the Tuesdays that have passed since ORT’s founding in 1880. While my math isn’t great, I figured out that ORT has been GIVING access to education, thus changing lives, AROUND THE WORLD, for a minimum of 7200 Tuesdays.
The least I could do was learn everything I possibly could about the micro:bit. Our organizational goal is to get as many micro:bits into the hands of ORT students, so they can easily learn to code, think creatively and have a ton of fun diving into STEM education. (science, technology, education and math.) FYI, ORT is a global leader in STEM education, so to state I have buy-in to the mission and vision of ORT’s Global Education Network is a no brainer. I’m passionate as hell about it.
Raising funds for the micro:bit was a fantastic choice, because they aren’t particularly expensive, but their impact on each student (and teacher) is immense. I am grateful to my staff partners for choosing the micro:bit. It has been easy to embrace.
Basically, kids find the micro:bit easy, fun and almost immediately understand that all kids can code. Right there, I see these kids succeeding and that’s all I need to know.
I am also a super fan of ORT America’s new branding. #GivingTuesday is a good place to educate the public on ORT’s global impact and strengthen our public organizational face.
So this year, I am far less cranky about #GivingTuesday, but have also made a choice to implement this year’s campaign differently than we have in previous years. We aren’t going to bombard you on November 27th as we have other simultaneous fundraising ventures AND, we just don’t want to bombard you. We’d prefer to gracefully shepherd you into ORT.
I do ask you to consider how the micro:bit can change kids lives and their upcoming trajectories. How will this one hand-held computer impact their career path? Who will they be in the world?
Sure, maybe I think and feel too deeply and I take my job far too seriously. This is something I have tried to change but have been unsuccessful.
When I think about or meet ORT students, I see with clarity that there’s hope and optimism in our future leaders. This one thought, makes any day, even #GivingTuesday, more than a worthwhile investment.
If you want to get micro:bits in the hands of ORT students around the world, please support Team ORT Chicago!
Of course I appreciate every “bit” that comes into ORT and a micro:bit makes a macro impact.
The past several weeks have been rough. Without going into detail on what’s happening in my little family, I’d rather focus on what this time period has evoked:
Are we safe?
My daughters and I have openly discussed safety, identifying safe and unsafe scenarios and spaces, not compromising our safety, so that someone will like or accept us, and finally, how we practice self-soothing when we are afraid. Like any parent, my daughters’ safety and empowering them to know how to get/stay safe, are of the utmost importance.
While in the midst of walking through private issues over the past several weeks, epic mass shootings, scores of hate crimes and the disastrous fires in California, also plagued our country.
After the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, PA, like so many of us, I was shocked. No matter how many times I hear about or experience anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc, the shock value never, ever lessens.
My daughter and I discussed the Pittsburgh tragedy after a few days had passed. I couldn’t believe how matter of fact she was about it.
I fervently exclaimed,
I absolutely refuse to let this be the new normal!
She responded to me very calmly,
Mom, we’ve been having lockdown drills for as long as I can remember. At first, when I was little, they were really scary, but now, this IS our normal.
My mouth was agape. I felt like I couldn’t breathe…
I had the “aha” moment I have never wanted to have.
I went on to validate what she’d said to me. I told her that her response made me sad and then, she said,
It is sad, but it just is. Mom, we have to live with what is.
A part of me wanted to argue against what she was saying, but I didn’t. The truth is, I was in awe of my daughter’s composure and graceful example of how to live life on life’s terms.
Just this past week, I came home from work and as I prepped dinner, I shared with my daughters that ORT’sKfar Silver Youth Village had to be evacuated because there weren’t enough (or close enough) shelters, for the kids to be safe.
At dinner, my daughters were wide-eyed and glued to everything about Kfar Silver. They wanted to learn more about the “really cool” place the Kfar Silver Youth Village is.
My daughters asked so many questions:
How can these kids ever feel safe with rockets being launched nearby? How can they not have enough shelters? Do adults help them feel safe? Who helps the adults feel safe? How can the world be this scary?
And then, the same daughter who told me about needing to “live with what is” said,
One of my favorite human beings passed away two years ago. I wrote this while in tremendous grief.
I am grateful I wrote this the day Gregg passed, because I never want to forget the little things. There will only be one Gregg Helfer. The impact of Gregg’s presence on me, my kids and countless lives, was profound and will be cherished always.
Over the past several months, since my colleague, ORT Chicago director, Barbara (Barb) Statland announced her retirement as our region director, I’ve tried to sit down to write about her.
Each time I’ve tried to write almost anything about Barb, (and I have tried countless times), several things happen:
The Beach Boys’ Ba ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann runs through my head, but instead of “Ann,” I change it to “Jan.” Barb’s middle name is Jan, so it obviously works great. It repeats and repeats in my head and drives me totally nuts.
Still, I riff a little bit with the whole, Ba ba ba ba ba Barbara Jansong idea. I create a sketch in my head about “The Teach Boys” singing the song for our Barbara Jan. Instead of being on the beach, the band, along with ORT students and educators sing and dance in an ORT 21st Century Classroom.
Now, I start to get teary because Barb is kind of like family to me. I’ve grown accustomed to her face, her attention to detail and her Fuji apples and peanut butter at 11:16 AM each day. I think, “What will it be like not to hear her cutting apples? How will I know it’s 11:16 AM?”
I stop trying to write because I get emotional and even nostalgic. I am generally not a nostalgic person, but Barb and I have walked through a lot together. Side note: I also happen to be a very ugly crier.
Now, I am not crying. Oh good. We are making progress.
Here’s how I see my professional partner in crime and friend, Barbara Jan Statland:
Barb has been one of my best educators.
Her attention to detail is superlative.
If she wanted to, she could be a theater director and/or theater teacher.
She could also do voice-overs. Great voice.
Heck, she would make a fine actress.
She is one of the biggest reasons I was hired by ORT America. Thank you, Barb.
She has more patience than any colleague I have ever worked with, anywhere.
She is extremely creative and incomparably tenacious.
She loves ORT and its people very deeply. (P.S. ORT = People)
She is hilarious even when she’s not trying to be.
She is a powerful communicator.
She is reasonable.
Her commitment to and her belief in ORT programs never, ever wavers.
Barb’s leadership has sustained our region where most others would have failed.
I have never heard anyone better on the phone. Yes, she knows I eavesdrop.
There’s a lot more to Barb than what I’ve stated here. It has been my privilege to partner with and to learn from her.
The love goes both ways. ORT loves Barb so much, there’s a wholeORT International Seminar for Leading Educatorsdedicated to Barb, in honor of her retirement. This seminar, (which I believe starts TOMORROW!), is a key part of the ORT Teachers Fund which is a fund dedicated to the professional development of educators. A few words from Barb about the ORT Teacher’s Fund:
So many ORT students are motivated, passionate, knowledgeable and creative BECAUSE of their teachers. Their teachers instill these traits within their students. ORT knows that this is key and provides a network of peers for their teachers to whom they can turn for support and to share ideas. This Teachers Fund will provide so much – including training in the areas of digital technology, physics education and Bio Research, learning technologies training, math and English. Collaboration is key in all of these initiatives. — Barbara J. Statland
Barb has been around ORT for 30-ish years. She’s been an employee for 13 years and a region director for the past five or so. Most of us see Barb as a lifetime ORTist.
If you’d like to honor Barb’s Herculean leadership at ORT, and/or you seek to invest in professional development for educators, and/or you want to witness my ugly crying because thanks to you, we have raised our $40,000 goal, please stop reading this post and click on Barb’s photo below!
Thank you for reading this, and of course, for your investment in Barb, ORT, teachers, students, me and all who make a positive impact on our world.
May we all draw strength, knowledge and courage from Ba ba ba ba Barbara Jan.